Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cancer Fallout

Looking at the vacation photos in my last post, you would never know that I have been struggling with fatigue. It's actually more than fatigue. It's a feeling of complete lethargy. Malaise. Zapped. I've known for months that my body just wasn't right. I haven't felt this crushed since chemo, and it all started about a year ago. At that time, I consulted with my oncologist who through a series of blood tests, determined that I carry an antibody which prevents my body from absorbing vitamin B-12. Easy enough. I started monthly B-12 injections 6 months ago. At first, I did start to feel somewhat better, but in the last few weeks have had little energy to do even the simplest of daily tasks. All I want to do is just to lay down.

Last week I met with a new oncologist. Not that I didn't love my old one! I did. I do! But when Walter Reed closed last summer, things changed, he moved to Bethesda, and  I'd rather forgo the 90 minute trip to see him. There is a new oncology ward near my home now, so I thought I'd give it a try for general check ups. Dr. "V" was very kind, very thorough and listened to my every concern. He ordered a long list of blood tests, and in short, they came back with me having vitamin D2 deficiency such that 50,000 units have been ordered for me each week for the next 8 weeks! Maybe this will be the magic trick to bring my body back to reality. Most days I feel like I am operating in a fog, unable to find the motivation to do much of anything.

Dr. "V" was so thorough, in fact, that he wants this lump on my reconstruction to be biopsied. I asked him if the MRI from February stating that it is  "likely scar tissue" is not definitive. He said that, no, it is not. He didn't like that word "likely" in a patient who has a history of two distinct cancers and wants pathology from it to know for sure. He sat right there and typed an e-mail to the breast surgeon saying as much, and I go to see Dr. "A" in about a week and a half.  He also wanted confirmation that my choice to no longer take Tamoxifen is the right choice for me. We ran the numbers into an oncology prognosticating calculator called New Adjuvant. Turns out, because of my her2+ cancer, hormone therapy is not much benefit to me and so with his blessing I will not worry about taking it. This is a big relief because as anyone with hormone receptor positive cancer knows, as mine was, women suffer through years of side effects by blocking their naturally occurring hormones. Compliance is very low on these drugs because of that.
In addition (like I need an addition) he wanted me to follow up with  my gynecologist regarding lower back pain I have been dealing with each cycle. She phoned me the very next day and scheduled a pelvic ultrasound for the end of this month. Does the fun never end? I am beginning to think that I am deficient in FUN. That's it! I need more FUN!

John and longtime girlfriend, Lisha
On a very sad note, I received word last month that my chemo buddy, John, had passed away. John and I sat together every week for the better part of a year. He had been at this game a long time, fighting colon cancer for a total of 8 years. He was 53. He made it his mission to incorporate colon cancer screenings into Army retirement discharge medical tests. I was shocked and deeply affected by his death. I never knew anybody to die young before I was diagnosed with cancer. Never before the age of 90! John is the 2nd friend I have lost since my diagnosis. He had a strong faith. I know he is in Heaven. I know he is free from pain. I know I will see him again! Still, the reality is not easy to accept. I have 3 friends with metastatic breast cancer to their liver and bones right now. These are women who are my age and younger. Some who even had my same staging and diagnosis 3 years ago! There is no remission for them. Metastatic means that they are at stage 4 now, and there is no stage 5.

The fall out from cancer continues. It's sad, and it is no fun.


  1. You're right...from your great pictures of vacation, one would never know. Maybe that's because of the Holy Spirit living in you, giving you enough strength for the day. :) Praying for you!

  2. Here's hoping the new vitamins do you a world of good. And, you are on order not to worry about that lump. The doctor is just being super thorough - they can tell scar tissue from cancer. I've read enough path reports with mets to know that "likely" is as close as they ever get to a definitive "it's nothing."

    1. Well ultrasound radiologist gave differential diagnosis of recurrence so I guess they all see different things. It is the size of a lymph node (which the chest wall does have), and feels tender like a lymph node, but that tenderness comes and goes with my menstrual cycle. Weird, indeed! I know that when I had a lump 4 and 5 years ago they told me not to worry about it. Biopsy finally showed it to be ILC. Hard not to worry after that mistake. At least this way I will be able to breathe. History has taught me they can't "tell" anything definitive from imaging.

  3. Koryn,
    I'm glad I found you here. We are supporters (I THINK!?) on Blog for a Cure but I don't make it over there unless it's through a twitter feed. I saw a comment on Nancy's Point and realized it had to be you...... (Are we playing When Harry Met Sally???)

    Just wanted to say hi and I added your blog to my list so I **remember** to pop over here. Hope you get all good news and I'm loving your new doc.... Just sayin'


    1. Thanks AnneMarie! Yes I am also at BFAC. You be Sally, I'll be Harry!